"It's going to get really vicious, really personal, but I'm totally up for this fight." (Photo: Getty)
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Justine Thornton responds to attacks on Ed Miliband: "It's going to get worse"

Justine Thornton, Ed Miliband's wife, has given an interview with BBC News in which she says that the attacks on her husband will intensify in the campaign's final weeks.

Justine Thornton has told the BBC's James Landale that the attacks on her husband will intensify in the final weeks of the campaign. Asked about the attacks on Miliband, she said:

"I think it's going to get worse, I think over the next couple of months it's going to get really vicious, really personal, but I'm totally up for this fight."

With the polls narrowing - the May2015 poll of polls now shows a slender Conservative lead - and the election too close to call it's widely feared within Labour that the personal attacks on Miliband will only increase as the campaign enters its final two months.

Ms Thornton also revealed that her husband's biggest regret about leading Labour is "not seeing the children enough or worrying he doesn't see the children as much as he'd like". To help Daniel (6) and Samuel (4) understand their father's job, they have explained that Miliband leads "the red team" and  "there's quite a lot of chats about what the red team's doing and who the red team's helping."

 

 

 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

Photo: Getty
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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.